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Representative Pete Stark Named 2008 Humanist of the Year: Nontheist Leaders Gather in Washington to Unify Efforts and Honor Trailblazers

June 6, 2008

For Immediate Release - Contact Fred Edwords at (202) 238-9088 fedwords@americanhumanist.org - www.americanhumanist.org

Friday evening, June 6, Rep. Fortney H. "Pete" Stark will be named the American Humanist Association's 2008 Humanist of the Year at the 67th annual AHA conference. This year's conference will be held in conjunction with the IHEU World Congress in Washington, DC.

Stark is the first openly nontheistic member of Congress.  Having served in Congress since 1973, he is a senior member of the Ways and Means Committee and is chairman of its Health Subcommittee.  Stark's strong record of championing humanist values is shown by his advocacy for universal health care, peace, and religious freedom.

"We're delighted to award Representative Stark," commented Roy Speckhardt, executive director of the American Humanist Association. "Stark fights for progress and is a bulwark against the regressive policies of the current administration. By coming out as a nontheist he has directly raised the profile of humanists and has challenged blatantly false notions that only those who believe in god have a claim to morality and compassion."

Stark will be presented the award at an 8:00 PM ceremony on June 6 during the Association's 67th Annual Conference.  The conference is being held June 5-8 in Washington, DC, and will include plenary sessions on topics including human rights, bioethical issues, religious reform, freedom of conscience and expression, Humanist approaches to social problems, and many others. The IHEU World Humanist Congress is a triennial event that has been held in France, India, and the Netherlands. The last Congress held in the United States was 20 years ago.

This year's conference will also award a prestigious line-up of humanist figures.

Philip Pullman, best-selling author of "The Golden Compass," will receive the International Humanist Award. Pullman has published nearly twenty books since 1982 and has won numerous awards, including the Whitbread Book of the Year Award, the Carnegie Medal, the Guardian Children's Book Award, and the Eleanor Farjeon Award for children's literature.

Eleanor Smeal, founder and president of the Feminist Majority Foundation, will receive the Humanist Heroine Award. Smeal is also publisher of Ms. Magazine, and previously served as president of the National Organization for Women.

Jamie Raskin, State Senator from Maryland, will receive the Humanist Distinguished Service Award. Raskin has earned national recognition as a voice for democracy, and as a civil-rights and civil-liberties advocate.

Judge John E. Jones III, who presided over the landmark Dover "intelligent design" case, will receive the Humanist Religious Liberty Award. Judge Jones current serves on the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Pennsylvania.

Carolyn C. Porco, director of the Cassini Imaging Central Laboratory for Operations (CICLOPS), will receive the Isaac Asimov Science Award. In 1999 Porco was selected by the "London Sunday Times" as one of 18 scientific leaders of the 21st century and by "Industrial Week" as one of "50 Stars to Watch."

Matthew LaClair, a senior at Kearny High School, NJ who exposed a proselytizing teacher at his school, will be honored with the Humanist Pioneer Award. This year, he is in the midst of working to have his current history textbook revised to eliminate biases and inaccuracies regarding separation of church and state, global warming and other issues.

Christopher Hitchens, the well-known columnist and author of the best-selling book "God is Not Great," will be delivering the keynote address.

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The American Humanist Association (www.americanhumanist.org) advocates for the rights and viewpoints of humanists. Founded in 1941 and headquartered in Washington, D.C., its work is extended through more than 100 local chapters and affiliates across America.

Humanism is a progressive philosophy of life that, without theism, affirms our responsibility to lead ethical lives of value to self and humanity.